On Senior Night the Noles played one of their best games of the season, but came up a play short when freshman phenom Harrison Barnes hit a contested 21 foot jumper with 3.1 seconds to go, leading UNC to a 72-70 win in a tough fought, physical game. In the first half FSU only turned the ball over 4 times, and confused the Tar Heel defense with multiple looks off double high-post screens that led to several layups by the Seminole guards. Derwin Kitchen and Michael Snaer each scored 9 points in the half, and FSU went into the break up one, 38-37. In the 2nd half UNC kept threatening to extend leads but every time FSU fought back, mostly on the interior, and used an 8-2 run in the final three minutes to cut the lead to 1 at 69-68, with :34 seconds left. With the shot clock off the Noles elected not to hold for a final shot and instead attacked at the first opportunity, which Derwin Kitchen took on a drive down the right side of the lane. After he was fouled with 18 seconds remaining the senior calmly hit both free throws to give FSU their first lead since the 15:15 mark. FSU burned their last timeout (which proved to be inconsequential) and set up their defense. UNC used the exact same strategy that FSU used and tried to score at their first opportunity, but Kendall Marshall’s runner was blocked out of bounds with :11 seconds left. The Tar Heels then cleared out for Harrison Barnes who hit the game winner.
Derwin Kitchen led the way with 13 points. Michael Snaer (11) and Bernard James (10) were also in double figures. Okaro White and Ian Miller both showed encouraging flashes, and White finished with 6 points, 7 boards, and one great choke-hold takedown of Tyler Zeller. Miller had 7 points and 4 assists. John Henson had his 11th double-double for the Tar Heels, leading all players with 19 points and 12 rebounds. Harrison Barnes added 18, and Kendall Marshall had 7 points and 8 assists. If all three players stick around for next year (highly unlikely) then UNC will be the overwhelming pick for the #1 team in the country.
The good news for the Seminoles is that after this loss there is no way the tournament committee can say the Noles are damaged goods without Chris Singleton. The bad news is that the committee doesn’t care about reason, and could just as likely look at this loss the same they looked at UNC beating us by 20. Either way the FSU players and coaching staff need to regroup and go after NCST with the same intensity and focus. A win on Sunday and we’re an absolute lock.